Review: Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time (PS3/PSV)

sly-thieves-in-time-review-banner-v2-gma-2013

Title: Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time
Format: PlayStation Network Download (PS3/PSV) / Blu-ray Disc (18.9 GB) / Game Card (3.3 GB)
Release Date: February 5, 2013 (US) / March 27, 2013 (EU)
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Sanzaru Games
Price: $39.99 (PS3+PSV) / $29.99 (PSV only) *This is a Cross-Buy title
ESRB Rating: T
Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time is available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. It is a Cross-Buy, Cross-Save title.
The PlayStation 3 Blu-ray and PlayStation Vita download versions were used for this review.

** This will be a completely spoiler-free review. All screen shots are from the first time period and were discussed in our preview coverage of the game. **

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 305 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time picks up directly after the events of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves. If you haven’t played previous games in the series or even if you forgot what happened, fear not, a built in Prologue is available to get you up to speed. It can be skipped but it’s worth watching for the visuals alone, even for Sly Cooper veterans. Pages are disappearing from the Thievius Raccoonus, a book detailing the skills of the Cooper ancestors, and the gang has to reunite to save Sly’s past.

Built on stealth-action, the Sly Cooper games have always had a Saturday Morning Cartoon feel to them, with wild capers and wilder villains, humor, action and a fleeting touch of seriousness make all of them an experience to remember. Pop culture references abound and Thieves In Time lays them on masterfully. Some of the more obvious ones hit Back to the Future, Star Wars, The Bionic Man and Indiana Jones but you may pick up some more obscure bits along the way.

The Sly Cooper formula involves arriving at a location and executing a series of jobs from a Hideout that’s been set up in the area. You’re always free to go out and explore the area with any of the characters whether they have a job available or not. Along the way you’ll spot Sly Masks, Clue Bottles and Treasures.

2013-02-05-1117492013-02-05-1120462013-02-05-1117002013-02-05-111742

There are sixty Sly Masks hidden throughout the game and finding them will unlock alternate costumes and such in the Extras -> Unlockables Menu. The differences are all cosmetic, but a fun change up. Collecting 30 Clue Bottles in a level allows you to unlock a safe hidden somewhere in that level which contains a rare and valuable treasure. The Treasures can be the trickiest of all because they each have a timer attached to them. You have to get them back to your Hideout without taking any damage before the timer runs out. Collecting all the Treasures in a level unlocks the Arcade machine back at your Hideout which is well worth the effort. A ping pong table is also available for a quick match between Sly and Bentley at any time. It’s pretty simplistic with only two types of shots available and it’s impossible to hit the ball out of bounds but its a nice little diversion and an opportunity for another Trophy.

You’ll still be moving from location to location around the world to complete your quest as in previous games, but this one adds the dimension of time. You’ll finally get to not only meet a number of Sly’s ancestors, but also play as them, each with their own signature moves or skills. You’ll also find a costume in each time period which will not only help you progress through the story, but also find hidden treasures in other time periods.

While the costumes are a fantastic way to add new moves to Sly’s repertoire without making drastic changes to the core gameplay, they also extend the gameplay quite a bit. You’ll find a number of inaccessible areas across the different levels and it quickly becomes clear that with the right costume, you’ll be able to reach them. The costumes are also flat out fun, each giving you one or two unique abilities wrapped in a silly outfit. For the PS3, switching between them is as simple as holding down L2 and selecting the outfit you want. On the Vita, an icon appears in the lower right hand part of the screen, tapping on it brings up the costume select.

That brings up the control differences between the PS3 and Vita versions of the game. Sanzaru did an excellent job mapping L2, L3, R2 and R3 controls in an intuitive and simple way with the front and rear touch screens. All the touch icons mapped to the buttons are discretely placed in the lower left or right of the screen, out of the way of any action and easily accessible.

Using your Binocucom (R3 on the PS3) is handled by touching an icon in the lower left area of the Vita screen. Bringing up your Compass and current Collectible count (L3 on the PS3) is as simple as double tapping the Rear Touch Screen on the Vita. The other L2 and R2 controls are handled with icons on the Front Screen. I found it immensely easy to jump back and forth between the two versions never having to think about the controls, it’s that intuitive.

2013-02-05-1124442013-01-30-164048

Speaking of jumping back and forth between the PS3 and Vita versions, it’s dead simple here. Hitting Start to bring up the Pause Menu, you’ll see an option called “Cross-Save”. You’re given the option to “Upload to Cloud” or “Download From Cloud”. When downloading, you’ll be asked which save slot you want to use for the new data and you’re good to go. The save files are just over 100KB so the whole operation is super quick. When finishing up a game session on either system, I always make sure to upload the current save so I can pull it down to the other system if I happen to continue there.

With a working time machine, you’ll be able to jump back to any time period previously visited at any point in the game. You don’t need to wait until you complete the main story for any of this which is a nice feature to have. For, ahem, completionists, this makes things much easier, not worrying about getting every Clue Bottle and Collectible in a level before moving on. You can also replay any Jobs from a menu in the Van/Time Machine allowing you to go back and grab any collectibles you may have missed.

The Jobs have a wonderful variety to them, with a few surprises along the way. Fans of the series will find many familiar ideas but quite a few twists as well. Murray and Bentley get in on the action again with their own Jobs to complete and thankfully, for me anyway, there’s only one RC Helicopter mission in the game. The real fun comes in playing as the Ancestors, each getting to show off their unique abilities. I won’t spoil anything but just wait until you get to the montage. That’s right, like any good 80′s flick, Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time includes a playable montage, and it’s fun!

The game play, while fantastic, will only get you so far. It wouldn’t amount to much of anything without a great script to hold it all together and progress the story. I can safely (and happily) say that the script is just as good as, if not better than, all of the previous games in the series. Giving Sanzaru extra time to polish the game was the right thing to do as this was one of the tightest, cleanest and most bug free experiences I’ve had on the PS3.

Visuals:
The Sly Cooper games have always been known for their brightly colored, cel-shaded graphics and Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time takes it to an all new level. It’s the first full game in the franchise to be built entirely from the ground up for High Definition and it really shines. This is a franchise that always looked great on the PS2, but the detail, the colors and the lighting just bring the characters to life in a wonderful way.

The costume unlocks and power ups add some nice variety to your playable characters and the effects of those power ups are shown with really cool lighting effects, explosions and more.

2013-02-05-1134462013-02-05-1130242013-02-05-1128122013-02-05-112745

3D is an option of course and it looks great but I’m surprising even myself by saying this game looks better in 2D. I’ve always been of the opinion that if it’s available, I always play in 3D, however, after switching back and forth between the two options, the 2D just seems to have more pop to it.

The Vita version looks absolutely fantastic in its own right. While it can’t quite match the overall visual fidelity of the PS3 version, you’d be hard pressed to spot the differences without a side by side comparison. The only thing I ran into on the Vita was some pop in of characters and objects in the distance. It’s funny but it’s something I didn’t even notice until I completed the story and started running through previous levels looking for the collectibles. It won’t come up as much during normal game play since the game tends to reward stealth and more cautious movement over running around like a wild man, but it’s there.

Audio:
All the signature sounds you’d expect are here. The tell-tale sound of a dancing Clue Bottle, the plucked strings of each footstep as you sneak around, the whirring of the Binocucom, everything. Details are what counts and Sanzaru really nailed even the littlest of them.

There’s a whole new cast of characters in the villains and the Cooper family ancestors and the voice acting is fantastic for each of them, especially Bob (no spoilers). The original actors are back for the main cast as well which, of course, was critical in making the game feel right. Having worked together in the previous games and with a script as tightly written as Thieves In Time is, fans of the series will be giddy with the dialogue and delivery.

The music steps it up as well. Along with the signature pieces that fans will recognize, each of the time periods have their own distinct aural blend. Each bit of background music compliments the story beautifully and just adds a layer of atmosphere to the game without ever being overbearing or getting in the way. This is a soundtrack I definitely want to add to my collection.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
Sanzaru has always said that they’re huge fans of the Sly Cooper franchise and it’s on full display in Thieves In Time. The attention to detail in the look and feel of the game, the missions, the character development and the script make this the perfect continuation of the series. This game is well worth a $60 price point, but the fact that you can get it for $40, with the Vita version makes it the best bargain you’ll ever find on the PS3.

I was initially worried that the game may be too short or that the story might not live up to the previous games, but after playing for the past few weeks, I can’t find a single weakness in this game and I can’t recommend it enough.

Score:
10

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

Buy this game from Amazon.com:
Buy this game from Amazon.co.uk:

 

** ADDENDUM
So, I completely left out the information about the AR Functionality between the Vita and PS3, rough week. Well here it is:

Connectivity between the two versions is done with a nifty feature called AR Treasures. This is all detailed in the sweet Digital Manual included on the disc, but for those of you who don’t like to read (including, apparently, many reviewers of the game…), it’s easy to get it up and running.

To make this work, you need to go into the Options -> Game menu on the PS3 and turn the AR Server on. The choice is saved so you only have to do this once, it’ll be on every time you start the game. Next, when you start the Vita version of the game, there’s an option at the bottom of the Main Menu called AR Treasures. Select this and the Vita will connect to the PS3 (as long as you’re signed in to the PSN on both).

You can then hold the Vita up to your TV screen when you’re in one of the open world areas, press R1 and you’ll see an overlay of the screen with all the Clue Bottles, Sly Masks and Collectibles highlighted. The nice thing is that by pressing L1, the entire AR overlay is brought directly to the Vita’s screen. That way, you don’t have to constantly juggle the Vita and your controller.

It’s really cool functionality and can be used to find those last few pesky Treasures, but you can easily use it to “cheat”. Personally, I found it more fun to explore and find them on my own as it was a much more rewarding experience for me.

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 18 consoles and 4 handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook
  • Eric R. Miller

    How does the cross-controller functionality work? Did you have time to test that, or is it not patched in yet?

    • http://psnation.org/ Josh

      There is no cross-controller functionality that I know of. The only place I’ve seen it mentioned on the internet was an IGN Wiki from 5 months ago (almost definitely wrong).

      • Guest

        actually Sony mention it at gamescon (the Germany one) press conference about right around the same time they announced the cross controller addon for lbp2

        • etur0

          lol I deleted my message because I just remember what they were talking about is what you explained but the message is still there but has guest

  • ChazzH69

    Well having to wait almost two months for this game to be released in the UK is not good. But I’m currently on SLY 2: BAND OF THIEVES and having a blast so it’s not all bad.

  • http://psnation.org/ Josh

    I just realized I forgot to talk about the AR functionality, I’ll add an addendum to the Review later today, sorry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sindred Rey Barrera

    Fucking solid review, Josh. Can’t wait to pick this up tonight.

    • http://psnation.org/ Josh

      Thank you sir, hope you enjoy the game (though I know you will)

  • http://twitter.com/askamfer Alan Skamfer

    If you have never played any of the previous games would you recommend playing through The Sly Collection before playing this or is the included prologue good enough?

    • http://psnation.org/ Josh

      The prologue does a great job getting newcomers up to speed but the original 3 are really fantastic and I think you get more out of it if you’ve played them all in order. Plus the collection is pretty cheap at this point, right?

      • http://twitter.com/askamfer Alan Skamfer

        I found The Sly Collection for $16 on Amazon last night and immediately placed an order.

  • johnnyp70

    I know a lot has been said about the marketing, but another thing to pile
    on with is when you open the store on the PS3 the first thing you see
    is (or should be) the big items they want to drive you to. The main
    game for today is Dead Space. Nowhere on that screen is Sly Cooper,
    which Sony has a more direct stake in! Their marketing is so bad that
    they can’t even do free marketing right! Also, how difficult would it be
    to whip up a commercial for Cartoon Network, or HUB, or Nickelodeon for
    this game? Also, there is a Hulu Plus app on my PS3 that forces me,
    even though I pay a monthly fee, to watch commercials. Can’t Sony spend
    a little cash and put their game ads there? I criticize not to damn
    them, but rather because I believe in the product so much that I want
    them to succeed. They blew it with All Stars, blowing it with Sly, and
    will probably kill GoW and the Last of Us.

    In my mind, I could see a movie-type commercial for The Last of Us:
    Title card: “From the studio that brought you the UNCHARTED Trilogy:
    followed by 30 seconds of tense gameplay footage, then BOOM: THE LAST OF
    US-In stores May 7th. Will this be the last of you? (Or some tag line).
    Chime – PlayStation. (i know I got off topic-This is a great review, and a nice companion to the audio review on the pod.)

  • Pingback: » The PlayStation Recap: What We’re Reading Gamez Menu

  • Pingback: Heads-up: ‘BlazBlue’ on Vita free for US PS+ subscribers | PlayStation Nation

  • Pingback: PlayStation Plus June Update | PlayStation Nation